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"Lush Life"

If the primary season comes to an end today (and it probably won't -- see previous item), I plan to devote myself to purely literary pursuits henceforth [thenceforth??]. I'll do intellectual stuff like read books, and will be "bookish" even though this will incite people to accuse me of dweebishness [dweebery??].

Here's something promising: Richard Price has published a new novel. It's called "Lush Life." Michiko Kakutani loves it: "He depicts his characters' daily lives with such energy, such nuance and such keen psychological radar that he makes it all come alive to the reader -- a visceral, heart-thumping portrait of New York City and some of its residents, complete with soundtrack, immortalized in this dazzling prose movie of a novel." [Yeah, but is it good??]

Back in the day I read everything Price wrote. And in 1992, working for Style, I went with Price to the projects in Jersey City. That was right when "Clockers" came out.

Here are a couple of exerpts from that piece:

'Price's great achievement is to force the reader to identify with, and ultimately root for, a street punk who sells crack cocaine for 10 bucks a pop. Price refuses to give Strike any feel-good, Hollywood-issue virtues; he doesn't treat his mother like a saint or rescue babies from burning buildings or secretly possess a genius IQ. He's just a confused kid with an occasional stutter and a worsening ulcer, his "stomach glowing like a coal." He sees drug dealing as his only way out of the projects -- "Me not selling it ain't gonna stop nothing out there but my money flow" -- yet knows his likely destiny is prison or death. He becomes jumpy when there is nothing to react to, nothing to be in motion for, and "too much time to think random thoughts."

'Strike carries a gun but feels reluctant about executing a fellow drug dealer, whose sudden murder provides the central mystery of the novel. Strike might be described as an upstanding criminal; he's disciplined in his behavior, he doesn't use the drugs himself, and he's clean. In Price's odoriferous novels, cleanliness is what you settle for in a world with too little godliness. When Strike enlists a 12-year-old boy as a drug mule, a despicable act, at least Strike teaches the child how to brush his teeth regularly in order to fight bad breath. "Y'all got to brush them teeth twice a day, my man," Strike says. "You got to fight the dragon."...

'... Price is a product of the working-class Jewish projects of the Bronx. He grew up, he said, feeling he didn't belong. "You're always wishing you were a better athlete, more popular, so you go to bed thinking and fantasizing and setting up scenarios where you're the hero, you're the Errol Flynn of the playground. The people who are class president and the star quarterback of the football team, they don't become writers. It's the people who are on the outside looking in, they are the ones who are always rewriting their lives."

'Price has since rewritten his life many times, with some chapters looking in retrospect like they needed some careful editing. He went to Cornell and then the writing program at Columbia, had some stories published and suddenly leaped to the attention of serious readers in 1974 with his first novel, a gritty book called "The Wanderers." Suddenly, at the age of 24, he was no longer just a shrimpy Jewish kid from the projects, he was an Authentic Literary Figure, and in homage to his new status he began showing up at readings with bottles of Southern Comfort and blondes in tow. His next book, "Bloodbrothers," received more literary acclaim.

'It was a heady time for the lad. Too heady. He wanted to live the life of a literary saint. The work itself, the longhand labor over a legal pad, isn't as much fun as the rewards of being known.

' "You're sitting in isolation and rearranging 26 letters over and over again," says Price. "I really like being a writer. I hate writing, though." '

The Los Angeles Times discusses how "Clockers" marked a turning point in Price's career:

'Sprawling, kaleidoscopic, marked by an intuitive understanding of the city as an elaborately constructed landscape, "Clockers" pushed the parameters of Price's fiction, expanding on the vision of his earlier books in favor of something not unlike the social novel of the 18th and 19th centuries. In that sense, although his material was utterly contemporary, the dynamic of Price's narrative -- its sense of milieu, of scope, of what it means to live at a particular moment -- made for an odd sort of throwback: "Crime and Punishment" meets "Vanity Fair."

'Price, of course, was not the only writer to look ahead by looking backward, to rethink the idea of the social novel in a culture that seemed to have passed it by. In 1989, Tom Wolfe published a manifesto in Harper's agitating for a more expansive approach to fiction; his own first novel, "The Bonfire of the Vanities" (the title a nod to "Vanity Fair"), was an illustration of these principles -- or so he implied. Seven years later, Jonathan Franzen made a related argument in another Harper's essay, writing, "I mourn the retreat into the Self and the decline of the broad-canvas novel for the same reason I mourn the rise of suburbs: I like maximum diversity and contrast packed into a single exciting experience." '

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 4, 2008; 1:39 PM ET
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Next: Earth and Moon from Mars


For a serious answer to the probable origin of Hillary Hatred (back in 1992 before she became first lady and since then), see the end of previous boodle.

But I'm turning the page now. Books are good.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I AM first. Henceforth is correct. I'd vote for dweebdom, though.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Wow, don't tell me I managed to kill 2 boodles in 5 minutes.

Cute cartoon in "Over the Hedge" today.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

OK, now I'm REALLY bummed out...

Thank you, Gary, for everything. *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 4, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

For Ontario inhabitants: I think this legal challenge to the method of enforcing BSL could have legs, but I don't know Canadian law. A chocolate lab mix was put down as a "pit bull", I understand.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Joel? Joel? You in here?

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 4, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post somehow manages to have excellent comics. Locally, we live among the living fossils, both on the comic page at the local theaters.

I've basically missed out on literature all these years. The house is stuffed with nonfiction.

From the last kit, I should note that my high school colleagues dubbed me HAL. That kind of voice. I think the implication was that HAL was a malignant dweeb.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | March 4, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse


"bottles of Southern Comfort and blondes in tow" - that's it. Somewhere, I took a wrong turn. Instead of my current life, packed with responsibility, I could have been a Blonde In Tow. Not even responsible for the Southern Comfort. Ah, sweet bird of youth. The path not taken. All that.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 4, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

You missed your saving throw, Gary.

*raises Chalice of Many Toasts*

Posted by: SonofCarl | March 4, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, but Ivansmom, you'd have to wear those silly hot pants with "Blonde in Tow" and a pair of flashing lights on the seat.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | March 4, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I never read Pricve, so I got nuthin'. Ivansmom beat me to dweebitude, so I got nuthin' else there, either. Never played D&D, so I got nuthin but a generic RIP for Gary Cygnus or whatever his name is. I've watched Robert Irvine a few times on the Food Channel, but don't like him or his show, so I got nuthin' there. The temp. has dropped to 69 degrees again and it's clouding over.

So: I got plenty o' nuthin'. (Hey...wonder if that would make a good song lyric...)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 4, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

And really high heels. And long bright red fingernails.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 4, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

That works, Mudge. Maybe you can revamp "Nuttin' for Christmas" into "Nuttin' for Boodling."

One, two, and hit it!

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

OK, how about this? Congrats on a great career to Brett Favre. I'm gonna miss ya.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | March 4, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

And false eyelashes. And big hair.

Posted by: Raysmom | March 4, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I got nuttin' either, Mudge, but it's raining here!

Posted by: slyness | March 4, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Texas hair, there, Raysmom, we call that there a great big lacquered mess of Texas hair.

Posted by: Colleege Dweebian | March 4, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

And chewing gum.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 4, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

CPBoy adores anything HALish.

Ivansmom as a blonde sample of eye candy/arm candy, what-have-you only works in this way:

she is drop-dead gawwwgeous (pagin' Maggie for the Boston Southy way of sayin')

However, she went to Ryyyyyyyyyyyyyce, that place in Texas of big dweebie-nerdie brainiacs.

PS. Dweebs rule, along with nerds and other assorted amartie pops.

Posted by: College Parkian | March 4, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget the HUGE hair, Ivansmom, supported by lots of hairspray.

Dweebision? Okay, that one deserves derision. Dweebsville? Dweebosity. I like that one.

Nerd rapper:

"I got viscosity and dweebosity, Word. Ain't no animosity in me when jocks size of oxes say that with ferocity, I just calculate their terminal velocity...)?

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

CP, I was gonna call it that, but in honor of primary day, went more generic.

Big hoop earrings?

Posted by: Raysmom | March 4, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, you word-hash slingin hot mama: you are so funny.

Hey, did I miss the promised Montana kit on politics? Perhaps I imagined this in my fevered, lathered week of home-place joy.

Off to be a band-mom seamstress. My, how they have grown since September. And, memo to the planet: lose the Axe-brand body flavor sprays. Yuck.

Posted by: College Parkian | March 4, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

CP, don't forget the band-mom seamstress' secret weapon: the staple gun.

Posted by: Raysmom | March 4, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Raysmom, I was thinking big button earrings, two tones of know, career, button-style earrings you remove to answer the phone....Republican earrings....

but I may be outa date, since I have not touched Texas since 1995 or so.

Posted by: College Parkian | March 4, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Cat eye glasses, can't forget them!

The stileto heels have to be open-toed, of course. And patent leather.

Posted by: slyness | March 4, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

And tight tops-- maybe velvet, plush, or just a really tacky t-shirt in bold colors (such as pink, maybe black)-- even an inverse black and gold leopard print.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Actually, "thenceforth" is right, but even Joel doesn't have the nerve to use it without hedging because it's hardly even a word. Very hard to pronounce. Try saying it five times fast.

Good for you, Joel, keeping in touch with your inner dweeb, and quoting Franzen, too.

Posted by: kbertocci | March 4, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey, now. Y'all are treating this Blonde In Tow thing like a costume party. This is a real job, folks; you try following around a drunken writer with a smile on your face and big hair all day, trying not to break your nails on the Southern Comfort bottle (shudder - not even Maker's Mark!) and handing him pens when he drops them during the signings. Sitting around bookstores all day, waiting for someone to show, or in the anteroom while he's being interviewed by some host who's never read his book - I tell you this is work.

I don't know; maybe I chose the right career path after all.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 4, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Since he's talking about a conditional future, I think he may use either henceforth or thenceforth without fear of derision on either score.

If he was talking in the past perfect (or pluperfect tense), it would have to be thenceforth, forsooth.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

You did, Ivansmom. Become a writer and you can have a blond in tow yourself, drunken or not drunken.

I look forward to your upcoming book, "Annie Oklahoma: Practicing law with a six-shooter."

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I got some rather worn dungeon dice that are a testament to the impact of Gary Gygax, one of the true Deities and Demi-Gods, on the geek universe. So it goes.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 4, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I was a dweeb in high school, and it was the nerds that got all the blondes in tow. How we gnashed our dweebly teeth at the sight! How we secretly dreamed one day we, too, could be nerds. How we hated them.

Posted by: Jumper | March 4, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Ay god, Woodrow. You killed it.

Posted by: Augustus | March 4, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Hold on, Gus, giver a second.

Posted by: Woodrow | March 4, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

You know, that Huffington link says it all. Never, ever has any man candidate pulled a stunt like this. Nor should any woman candidate.

You know what is wrong with Hillary? She is so busy proving she can out masculine the men, she forgets she is a woman. What? Is she ashamed or something? What? (I think I screeched when I thought this. Thankfully I can retire into a place where I never ever have to vote for this person)

I can't think of anything that has set equality for all people back farther than her campaign and I think she knows it and is running scared. This might have worked in the 80's but not now.

The election is not for Clinton, it is not about Clinton or Obama, or even McCain. Its about you, and every individual making up your minds, hoping your votes finds you, the best possible person to stand in your stead in the face of the rest of the world. In the hunt for power, candidates, pundits and in particular Hillary Clinton forget this. The job is about you, not them.

Must stop thinking about politics. It is bad for my health. Must go play with yarn, delivered by post office in the last hour. Politics bad. Yarn good.

Posted by: dr | March 4, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

And of course the pink or leopard-print T-shirt must almost cover the surgically-enhanced upper torso underneath, with minimal support from something in Vicky's catalog.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 4, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Oddly enough, my opinion is the opposite of that Price quote. That is, I really enjoy writing. I would just hate to be a writer.
I'm too thin skinned to deal with critics.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 4, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Joel - that Mars pic is cool. I have a similar pic on my computer that shows Jupiter as seen from Mars.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 4, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

For some reason RD makes me think of Fellini's Toby Dammit. This shows the wonderful side of fame. With blondes in tow.

Posted by: Jumper | March 4, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

RD, a good editor doesn't make it sound like criticism. And aren't a lot of literary critics really wanna-be writers without the talent, the ideas, and/or the viewpoint? In those cases, you just need to remember that jealousy is an ugly ugly beast. ( 5 famous writers. Now name 5 famous critics. Oprah doesn't count.)

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do." B. Franklin

Gotta love that Benny.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 4, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

That is truly bizzare, dr., and I'm trying to forget it. Urinal cake-scented pressrooms? Gag.

What were they thinking, that they were hosting closeted republican congressmen in a mood to cruise for sex?

Holding it outside in a blizzard would have been classier by a mile. I bet Joel's glad he wasn't there yesterday. What a story he wouldn't want to tell the kids.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

RDPadouk, your comment on the Mars picture is cryptic to me. I haven't seen any reference to it here. However, I am guessing that you mean this Mars picture, from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

It is, indeed, ultra-cool, even though I had nothing to do with it.

For more pictures of Earth from distant spacecraft, I advise you to keep an eye on this spacecraft:

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 4, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I meant "this Earth picture" not "this Mars picture".

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 4, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The middle school where I work always has elections through the social studies classes when there is a primary or presidential election. Ron Paul brought up the tail end with 4 votes. Next came Huckabee with 50-something votes. Clinton and McCain each got just over a hundred. Obama blasted the ceiling out with over 500 votes. We'll see how it goes in November, but if kids could vote...

Also, I second CP's plea to rid the earth of Axe body spray. Tag, too, and any other male perfumes that make their users think they're gonna get some. You're going home alone tonight because you stink.

Posted by: Gomer | March 4, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Bathrooms are underrated as work spaces. Firstly, it is a location conducive to pondering, to meditation, to deep thought. Secondly, it is relatively easy to hose down after writers have been there. Thirdly, bathrooms are equipped with heavy-duty ventilation systems. At least, these attributes held true for the several years that my office was a converted former Men's room. In fairness, the urinals and stall toilets had been removed by the time I was ensconced in that space. The tile floor and walls lent it a certain class that was absent from other offices at that location. There was only one unfortunate incident when the ventilation system (which was shared with the ventilation for the experimental animal facilities), backed up and sucked in air from the vicinity of the incinerators for the deceased critters.

Ah. Good times, good times.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 4, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

By the way, everyone knows that you don't tow blondes - the lines tend to foul. Echelon formation is preferred, if you must know.

Stopping now.

Posted by: SonofCarl | March 4, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Ah, good opposing viewpoint. I can't disagree with BATHrooms being good meditative spaces.

But sharing a public restroom with a mixed company of 10 other people at 5 A.M, SciTim? Complete with urinal cake perfumery?

Where do you uh, go if you need to take a leak?

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Joel posted the Earth picture taken from Mars just long enough for me to comment, and then he pulled it for his own nefarious reasons.

Playing with my mind. Everyone is playing with my mind.

Posted by: RD Padouk | March 4, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

But of course. It took you this long to figure that out, RD?


Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

OK, i put it back up there. The photo. In a new microkit. Sorry to be so unpredictable.

Posted by: Achenbach | March 4, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Six-legged octopuses, oh my.

And this butterfly article is pretty. From the WSJ, too. Amazing.

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

All of the eight-legged octopi,
Used to laugh and call him names

Posted by: Jumper | March 4, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

And they wouldn't let him play octopus games...

Posted by: Wilbrod | March 4, 2008 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I just wish I could give a sky report that would do this eastern sky justice.

above-Dark gray puffy and cottony with bits of white. a break of blue straight ahead. and hugging the horizon thick streaks of grays and blues and strips of white. looking to my left I see a spot where the sun almost peeks through. and then lower I see breaks where the sun colors it a thin white streak. and lower still at the very bottom a pinky fingers width of soft pink.

Oh gosh, beautiful morning

Hi everyone

Posted by: omni | March 5, 2008 7:23 AM | Report abuse

"You're sitting in isolation and rearranging 26 letters over and over again," says Price. "I really like being a writer. I hate writing, though." '
--so true, and even more tedious for us writers on the federal payroll--because of budget cuts, we only have access to 21 letters.

Posted by: outofink | March 5, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

i thank this storey it prtty good dont u

Posted by: Bobey dokey | March 5, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

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